Cognitive surplus (Clay Shirky) and intrinsic motivation (Dan Pink) fuel a hyperlocal blog in Northfield, MN

 Locally Grown Triumvirate: Tracy Davis, Griff Wigley, Ross Currier,  
I decided last week to take a month-long sabbatical from the blogging, podcasting, and tweeting that I do for Locally Grown, a hyperlocal blog in my hometown of Northfield. On Monday, Ross Currier, Tracy Davis, and I (AKA "the LoGroNo Triumvirate") met at our favorite watering hole, the Contented Cow, to decompress a bit and scheme for the future.

Locally Grown NorthfieldIn the 4 years since we launched the blog, we’ve published 2,976 blog posts, broadcast 187 podcast episodes, and host an ever-growing gallery of 10,000+ Northfield community photos.  We get 8-9000 unique users/month in a town of about 15,000. The blog has generated 35,085 comments and has a reputation for civility which is no accident. We’ve been experimenting with an optional membership plan which currently generates less than $100/month.

Since I put 10-15 hours/week into it (blogging, curating, commenting, moderating, tech maintenance, podcast production, taking photos, etc), people often ask me why I do it if I’m only effectively earning $1/hour.

I tell them: for me it’s fun, it’s engaging, it helps keep me connected to people in the town that I love (and where I plan to die), and I think it contributes to making Northfield a better place.

(Other motivators for me: It provides a sandbox where I can experiment with social media, which in turn, indirectly helps my consulting business. And yes, it’s a bit of an ego trip because it provides an audience for my civic-oriented writing/ranting, my antics, and my photos for which I get some recognition.)

Two new books are out that provide some illumination on why people work on projects like this.

Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us Wired magazine, Clay Shirk, Dan Pink 

The June issue of Wired has an interview with the Shirky and Pink: Cognitive Surplus: The Great Spare-Time Revolution.

Pink: We have a biological drive. We eat when we’re hungry, drink when we’re thirsty, have sex to satisfy our carnal urges. We also have a second drive—we respond to rewards and punishments in our environment.

But what we’ve forgotten—and what the science shows—is that we also have a third drive. We do things because they’re interesting, because they’re engaging, because they’re the right things to do, because they contribute to the world. The problem is that, especially in our organizations, we stop at that second drive. We think the only reason people do productive things is to snag a carrot or avoid a stick. But that’s just not true. Our third drive—our intrinsic motivation—can be even more powerful.

So powerful that I’m taking a sabbatical from Locally Grown this month in order to get other shit done (AKA making money to pay the bills).